While persona marketing is not a new concept, rapid advances in marketing technology are enabling B2B marketers to breathe new life into their persona marketing initiatives.
“I learned the importance of buyer personas in my career at Caterpillar back 15 years ago, but they were tough to implement,” said Peter Garza, VP of the Demand Generation Center of Excellence at MedAssets, a provider of healthcare services and products. “Back then it was hard to prove that persona marketing was the right thing to do. It was a lot harder to create content specific to your buyer personas, so it was really difficult to deliver a story where the benefit/cost ratio could be justified. With the technology we now have, we can definitely boost conversions and show ROI as a result of those efforts.”
Marketing technology from a variety of vendors gives B2B marketers the tools to make sense out of both internal and third-party data, as well as unite quantitative behavioral data with such qualitative data as first-person customer interviews. As a result, B2B marketers gain much deeper insights into their buyer personas and are able to deliver more personalized and relevant customer experiences.
“A lot of marketers see personas as a way to get a ‘holistic’ view of their customers, but it's a little bit more discrete than that,” said Adele Revella, founder of the Buyer Persona Institute. “We're building personas to get new insight into something that matters to the buyers during this buying decision.”
“How do you bring them to life? How do you really activate them across the sales and marketing organization to get the value out of them,” Freund said. “This includes things like integrating your personas into your sales and marketing systems. Going into your CRM and identifying the persona match for the leads and the contacts there, having that be part of how you report on your marketing effectiveness and efficiency. Now, there's a process around the maintenance of personas, keeping them up-to-date and keeping them current with emerging market trends.”
Bridging The Sales And Marketing Gap
MedAssets’ Garza said before the company decided last year to focus on buyer personas, and overhaul its marketing technology infrastructure, it was “doing everything wrong.” The marketing and sales teams were not aligned, giving MedAssets little visibility into prospects’ progress in their buying journey.
So with the help of The Pedowitz Group, the company took a multichannel approach, cleaned up its data, crafted multiple buyer personas and tapped Marketo to be the central platform hub to help manage its different campaigns and touch points.
The new plan led to the creation of more than 110 pieces of pain-point-driven content — including white papers, case studies, infographics, videos and executive briefs — tailored for targeted personas across three stages of the buyer’s journey.
“We tripled the amount of leads and opportunities because the quality of our content was so much better,” Garza said. “The nice thing about using a buyer persona with the right technology is that you're not only engaging better, but you're engaging with the right folks. How do we add value, how do we effectively communicate and how can we, as a company, meet our customers’ needs? That’s really what it boils down to.”
While creating and leveraging buyer personas is just one peg in MedAssets strategy, it has been a critical one. The company has been able to increase its top line revenue from demand generation by almost 700% in less than a year. With personas created, buyer journeys defined and corresponding content aligned, MedAssets went from delivering ongoing reactionary email blasts to a more strategic multichannel inbound/outbound approach.
“We’ve had phenomenal results with persona-based marketing,” Garza said. “Without it, quite frankly, we wouldn’t be where we are today. The persona-based experience is the fuel for our demand-gen engine.”
Realizing Value Beyond The Marketing Department
Stephanie Fox, Senior Director of Marketing at Copyright Clearance Center, a provider of copyright licensing services, said working with persona marketing tech company Cintell enabled her to “break the personas out of the marketing department” with buy-in from top executives.
“Our CEO is really embracing it and saying as we transform our business to a tech company, let's make sure that every person from top-to-bottom in the company knows and understands these personas,” Fox noted. “So we're both expanding the number of personas that we need to communicate to as marketers and as sellers, but also we're undertaking a company-wide transformation to bring personas to everybody.”
Persona marketing was not new at CCC. But previously, Fox said buyer personas “lived in these little Power Points that would get lost on our ancient fileserver,” which meant they were rarely updated and no one ever used them. But now, Cintell has updated those personas and embedded them in the company’s intranet to make them available to all CCC employees — everyone from marketing and sales to operations and engineering.
“While the product managers will continue to be the experts on the market and the customer and the customer needs, engineering is going to gain a better understanding of the ‘why’ behind the ‘what.’ Why is this a priority feature over that,” Fox said.
Fox is taking a three-phase approach with the Cintell integration. Now that employees have access to the new buyer personas, the next phase is integration with Salesforce and after that comes Pardot integration. While only the first phase is complete, the sales team has already boosted lead-gen efforts and is working much more collaboratively with marketing.
“Sales is providing a lot of really rich feedback and allowing us to update the personas on an ongoing basis,” she said. “Some of our newer sales reps are also much more successful than some traditional salespeople at CCC. Because they're expanding the number of people they're reaching with this new persona information, the legacy folks are starting to realize, ‘Huh. These guys might be on to something.’”
Tequia Burt is a veteran editor and writer with 10 years of experience covering the B2B landscape. Burt has previously written for publications such as FierceCMO and BtoB Magazine.